Professional designers in Vancouver have no shortage of events and conferences to attend for inspiration and networking, but most of them involve crossing the river to Portland. Vancouver architecture firm LSW Architects wants to change that.
The company is gearing up to host Design Vancouver on Oct. 4-5, the first iteration of what it hopes will become a yearly conference and Vancouver’s answer to the likes of Design Week Portland, Bend Design and the Oregon Design Conference.
The conference’s lead organizer, Jake Hendrix, said the idea stemmed from a perception at LSW that Vancouver has reached a tipping point in terms of the design work being produced in the city.
“How do we begin to elevate the design reputation of Vancouver?” he said.
The tipping point isn’t so much a specific amount or variety of design work, he said, but more a broader sense of pride among the city’s design and creative community and a shared drive to start imagining what the city could look like as a design hub in the future.
The emerging community can be seen through existing events like VanTalks and Hello Vancouver, he said, but LSW wanted to push the design community further and create an event that would rival design conferences in other cities.
Designing a design event
Hendrix joined LSW about eight months ago, primarily to serve as the lead organizer for Design Vancouver.
The biggest surprise, he said, was how quickly the plan came together. The event is intended to highlight local design achievements and give Vancouver’s design community a chance to connect with their peers; Hendrix said he found a large appetite for that kind of opportunity among the city’s design community.
Another goal, Hendrix said, is to emphasize the importance of design as an idea. The design phase, he said, brings an essential level of thoughtfulness and intentionality to any project, regardless of industry.
“Design goes by the wayside when other things start driving — like cost, time — that can impact the way something works out,” he said.
Most major cities have design conferences that last a full week, Hendrix said, but LSW decided to aim for a more modest two days for the inaugural Vancouver event. Tickets can be purchased at designvanwa.com. The cost is $215 for general admission and $165 for students.
The event will kick off on Oct. 4 at the downtown Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main St., which will host the main stage speakers throughout the day. Tandem Hall, 808 Main St., will serve as the main conference hub on Oct. 5, hosting a series of breakout sessions for attendees.
Software company AutoDesk, which operates an office in Portland, will host a “Design Slam” competition at Tandem Hall on the evening of Oct. 4. Professional and student attendees will be challenged to design something on the spot relating to a surprise topic, using AutoDesk’s software.
“It could be anything,” Hendrix said.
In addition to the annual conference, Hendrix said LSW hopes the event can lead to the creation of smaller “touchpoint” events throughout the year to help maintain the design community that the main conference seeks to build.
Hendrix said LSW defined “design” in the broadest possible sense when determining the kinds of speakers and projects that could be featured for Design Vancouver. That approach is reflected in the keynote speaker lineup, which spans several industries.
Hendrix developed the speaker list by reaching out to organizers behind nearby conferences like Bend Design and Design Portland, as well as people involved in Vancouver’s business scene such as LSW’s owner, Casey Wyckoff, and Max Ault, the former interim president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.
Most of the featured speakers are local to Vancouver or the Portland area, but there a two headliners from out of town: brothers Rob Bredow and Dennis Bredow. The mix of big name guests and local speakers was an important balance to strike, Hendrix said.
“We’d like to carry that forward, and we’ll always seek to have that,” he said.
Rob Bredow is the executive creative director and head of Industrial Light and Magic, the pioneering special effects company that George Lucas created as an in-house team for the first Star Wars movie. Most recently, he served as the visual effects supervisor and a co-producer for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
His brother, Dennis Bredow, is a senior look development artist in the cinematics division at video game company Blizzard Entertainment, maker of games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch. He’s also worked in the film industry and as a painting artist.
On the local end, there’s Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, who together founded the Slumberkins brand of educational children’s characters. The plush animals are paired with books that parents and children can read together to help teach children emotional skills.
There’s also Cody Goldberg, executive director of Harper’s Playground, a Portland-based company that designs inclusive playgrounds that can be used by children with disabilities. The company will make its first foray into Vancouver with a planned playground at Marshall Park.
Other speakers include architect Akasha Lawrence-Spence, founder of Portland real estate development firm Fifth Element; Jessica Helgerson, founder of Portland company Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, and Laura Allcorn, an interactive exhibition designer and founder of the Institute for Comedic Inquiry.